There's something rotten about PDVSA US Litigation Trust's legal adventures. If complaint filed by David Boies in a Florida court is to be believed, PDVSA entered into an agreement in July 2017 with Boies' law firm, tasked with suing 49 co-conspirators (Morillo, Baquero, Helsinge, Trafigura et al) in a fraud scheme said to have cost over $5 billion. The Engagement Letter, that set the conditions governing the parties' division of (possible) proceeds, remains hidden. Boies has been asked by Judge Otazo-Reyes to produce "drafts of the Trust Agreement by May 8, 2018". Boies also needs to produce "by May 22, 2018" Trustee Alexis Arellano (on the run on an arrest warrant from Ecuador), and Nelson Martinez (former head of PDVSA who signed the agreement with Boies, but was subsequently fired and arrested on corruption charges). A piece of critical evidence of the conspiracy, a "cloned server" that was kept in Miami by one of the conspirators, was sent (voluntarily) to a Swiss prosecutor conducting a criminal probe into the same affair before Boies' could get to it.
The chronology of events is key to understand this. PDVSA instructed Boies in July 2017 to act in U.S. jurisdiction. PDVSA must have also instructed (when?) the Swiss law firm -Canonica Valticos de Preux, tied to Wilmer Ruperti- representing its interests in Switzerland:
- Canonica brought a criminal complaint in Geneva on 13 February 2018.
- Boies launched a civil case in Florida on 3 March.
- On 4 March John Ryan, a Helsinge employee, was arrested in Geneva.
- On 5 March a hearing about a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was held in Miami: it denied Boies' "request to seize and copy all of Defendants’ hard copy and electronic records, granted Plaintiff’s request to order the preservation of materials, and directed that the TRO be served on all Defendants within 7 days."
- On 8 March a Boies lawyer emailed Helsinge's Daniel Lutz information on TRO.
- On 9 March 2018, the "cloned server" kept by Ryan's in Miami was sent to Switzerland. The Swiss Prosecutor claimed that he was informed about existence of server by PDVSA's legal counsel (Canonica), and demanded of Ryan to have the server sent to him, which he did voluntarily upon negotiation with the Swiss Prosecutor.
- On 9 March, Eve Dolon (Swiss lawyer of Ryan) texted Canonica a copy of FedEx tracking information related to shipment of server, joking "Apparemment pas Brennan!", in reference to investigator John Brennan, retained by Boies to keep Ryan and his office / home under surveillance.
- In a hearing held 14 March, Boies said to the Court: "And as the Court is also aware, a server that was the subject of the Court's order was removed and shipped to Switzerland. Now we don't know what else was taken. One of the reasons that we have subpoenaed Mr. Maldonado to this hearing is to try to inquire about that. But we do know that the server was taken. Now, they claim that nothing was done to it and it was simply sent to Switzerland. We don't have any way of knowing that. What we know is it was taken out of the Court's jurisdiction in violation of the TRO." Boies goes on to claim that he does not have a "full extent" of information contained in server.
Request for comments have been put to Canonica. If Boies is to convincingly argue about PDVSA US Litigation Trust's legal standing in Florida, so would have his Swiss counterparts. Canonica has also been asked to comment on his law firm's relations with Ruperti.
Another request was sent to Johan Droz, the Swiss Prosecutor, as to whether he shares legal standing concerns with Judge Otazo-Reyes re PDVSA's representatives (Canonica). ADDED 18-May, 10:03GMT: Mr Droz sent through a spokesman the following: "The Public Prosecutor's Office of Geneva has opened a criminal investigation after having received a criminal complaint from PDVSA on February 13, 2018. Due to the investigation going, it shall make no further comment." END.
Trust was set up by people who no longer have any power within PDVSA. The venture is in breach of Venezuelan legislation. The new Minister of Petroleum and PDVSA CEO, Manuel Quevedo, is believed to have ordered Boies to drop Trafigura from lawsuit. Has the same been done with Canonica in Switzerland? PDVSA continues to deliver oil and transact with Trafigura, despite legal actions (2.5 million barrels were delivered to Trafigura in March and April). PDVSA's current VP, Ysmel Serrano (pawn of Tareck el Aissami), has been accused by Boies of being one of the corrupt officials bribed by Morillo.
Court documents in Florida indicate that, thus far, there's no jurisdiction over Morillo and Baquero; and no proper service has been performed on either of them.
Sources in Caracas report that Boies, Algamex (the non-descript financing vehicle), and John Brennan are to get a cut out of proceeds.
This may be Ruperti's at his scheming best. He sold the notion of millions in legal fees / percentages to Boies, Duker, Brennan and Canonica, on the back of information relayed to him by Morillo's estranged wife. He pitched the deal to utterly corrupt chavistas, promising to fund the whole venture in exchange for a 34% bribe (potential proceeds) for use of PDVSA's name, as he had done with Novoship. He took a shot at former partner Trafigura along with some of the word's largest trading houses. Payback Wilmer Ruperti style, everyone seemingly dancing to his tune.
It remains to be seen whether Switzerland's Public Prosecutors engage -at the behest of Ruperti- with Boies' civil lawsuit in Florida and share critical evidence. It is a given that defendants are going to try everything within grasp to block that.